Adoption support fund - the First Year

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The Adoption Support Fund – the First Year



elcome to your guide to the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). This is aimed at adoptive parents in England who would like to access therapeutic support for their adopted children. The ASF was established in 2015 and has proved to be a lifeline for many adopters who were struggling to secure the necessary help needed for their children. I am delighted that the government is continuing to provide funding for the ASF through 2016-2020 which allows service providers to plan ahead and expand what they offer as well as encourage those parents who haven’t yet applied to come forward and seek the help they need. The government has recently announced the fund will be increased to £21 million for 2016-17, and £28 million for the year after. The government has pledged to increase the fund every year until 2020. The experiences of adopters who have already benefited from the fund are testament to how vitally important therapeutic support is. One told us: “We don't like to think what life would be like without it right now!” Another parent said: “Coming to therapy has taken a weight off my shoulders and helps to make things easier at home.” Since 1 May 2015, the ASF has supported more than 6,500 families, providing more than £22 million of funding for therapeutic support. The continuation of the funding is recognition that there is still more to do. This guide is designed to help you understand what the fund is, what it will pay for and how you can apply. A monthly Adoption Support Fund newsletter was launched in November 2015 to bring news, views and information that should help make clear what is available for all adopters and prospective adopters. The newsletter can be viewed here.

Hugh Thornbery CBE Chief Executive, Adoption UK


About the Adoption Support Fund What is the Adoption Support Fund? The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) became available to adopters throughout England after it was launched by the Department for Education on 1 May 2015. More than ÂŁ19 million was set aside (for the 2015-16 financial year) to help adopters in England whose children need therapeutic interventions and support.

Who is eligible for the Adoption Support Fund? zz The ASF is available to all children adopted from care and not just newly adopted children and from January 2016, ASF could be used to fund therapeutic support for children from the point at which they are placed with their adoptive families rather than having to wait until the adoption order was made. zz The ASF will pay for therapeutic support for all adopted children living in England. From 1 April 2016, this includes adoptive families living in England with children adopted from Wales, North Ireland, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and those families where children have been adopted from other countries via intercountry adoptions. zz The ASF has recently been extended to support young people up to age 21, where they have left care through adoption or special guardianship arrangements.

Where do I start? Local authorities are responsible for carrying out assessments of support needs for adopters and special guardians so you will need to speak to them (more detail at point 1 overleaf). If you adopted through a voluntary adoption agency you could speak to them about how best to approach the local authority, many will be happy to support that initial contact. Once the assessment is complete, local authorities can apply to the ASF on behalf of families and commission the therapeutic support needed.

Who will provide the services?

Local authorities, voluntary adoption agencies, adoption support agencies can all provide therapeutic services to adoptive families. Independent providers (where they are commissioned to provide the services by the local authority) and NHS providers, e.g. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) can also be funded to provide therapeutic services within the scope of the ASF.


How to apply 1. A pproach your local authority for an assessment of adoption support needs. The local authority that places the child with you is responsible for assessing your adoption support needs for three years after the adoption. After that, it becomes the responsibility of the local authority where you live. If you adopted through a voluntary adoption agency, talk to your agency about getting a local authority assessment. 2. T he local authority considers if therapeutic support is needed, the type required and if it is eligible for payments from the fund. 3. The adopter and the local authority will look at the support that is available. 4. T he local authority applies directly to the Adoption Support Fund on behalf of the adopter from the point at which the child is placed with the family. 5. T he Adoption Support Fund approves the funding and the funds are transferred to the local authority who then purchases the support.

Local authority assessment of support needs

Family and local authority agree the provider of support

Provide support to adopters

Provider Commissioned (including CAMHS)




Local authority



Application by local authority to the Adoption Support Fund

Adoption Support Fund DS


The ASF so far... Families have used the Adoption Support Fund to benefit from a range of therapies in a number of different ways. Here we share parents' experiences of accessing the fund.

Without the therapeutic support we would have placed him back in foster care.

His behaviour was impacting significantly on family life and relationships.

I no longer feel that I am on the journey alone.

Find out more here


How many people benefited from the ASF?






approved applications

0-5 years

6-10 years


5,289 families

7% Filial therapy 0% Short breaks 8% Extensive therapeutic life story work

Age range of recipients

504 1,688


1,310 11-15 years

25% Multi-disciplinary packages of support



16-18 years

19+ years

25% Creative therapies

27% Therapeutic Parenting

Service applied for 21% Further Assessments

21% Psychotherapy


What kind of support will the ASF pay for? Local authorities and adoption agencies should already be providing a certain amount of support to their adoptive families, such as: zz Information, advice, guidance and signposting zz Counselling zz Opportunities for adoptive families to meet, socialise and support one another (eg. family days, support groups) zz Managing and mediating contact with birth families zz Mediation when an adoptive family is at risk of disruption zz Financial support zz Basic life story work zz Short break care where no therapeutic input is provided (respite)

The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) will pay for therapeutic services that are not currently provided by local authorities including training for adoptive parents, a range of different types of therapy and further more complex assessment.

For a full list of what the fund will pay for, visit


The ASF in action New Foundations for Attachment Programme funded by ASF


he Adoption Support Team within Coram This pilot proved to be highly valued by the parents. Cambridgeshire Adoption is one of Evaluation measures indicated that they felt several sites piloting Kim Golding’s new listened to and supported. They felt better able to Foundations for Attachment Programme. understand their child and had been able to identify Kim is a Clinical Psychologist and author things they would do differently going forwards. of the Nurturing Attachments Programme. All felt more hopeful about the future and stated Foundations for Attachment, designed as a less that they would recommend the programme to intensive intervention for parents earlier in their friends. Parents described benefits such as improved adoption journey, is a six-session therapeutic attunement and interaction with their programme for parents who are child, practical strategies, and reduced parenting children with stress. It seems both the theoretical ful e s u e m o s relationship difficulties. content of the sessions and the “learnt at ly p p a It aims to support opportunity to share ideas and o t s strategie !” k parents in emotionally draw on support from other group r o hw home whic connecting with their members was valued. Peer support children by modelling a within this group has continued more playful, accepting, forward as parents continue to “made fa mily life a curious and empathic arrange informal meetings. lot less st style within their parenting. ressful”. It is designed for parents of Feedback from parents included children who have experienced the following quotes which have early relational trauma and loss highlighted the value of further resulting in attachment problems. It is hoped this developing this as an available group provides space for parents to reflect on intervention for parents. Parents stated that they these additional parenting challenges as well as have been “more able to emotionally reflect rather their own experience of relationships growing up than ‘tell off’”. One parent stated that they have and the impact of these on their parenting today. “been able to stop getting hung up on ‘control battles’” while one felt they had a “better ability to The programme introduces parents to the ‘repair’ [their] relationship with [their child] when challenges of parenting children whose capacity needed”. One parent felt that they had “learnt some to emotionally connect with parents has been useful strategies to apply at home which work!” compromised. Given the early experience of which, has “made family life a lot less stressful”. insensitive, neglectful or frightening care that The team are now running a second group and many adopted children may have had, they plan to have a rolling programme to allow more are vulnerable to experiencing high levels of adoptive parents to access this effective and highly shame and mistrust. They may struggle to enter valued intervention. This has been made possible in interactions in an open and engaged way. They part due to the Adoption Support Fund. Ongoing may struggle to express themselves, leaving evaluations will continue to contribute towards the some feelings and needs hidden away. development of the programme. The programme was delivered over the course of six weeks, with each session lasting three hours. In our first group, nine adoptive parents completed the programme. Their children ranged from age one through to six years old.

Dr Joanne Peterkin, Adoption Support Clinical Psychologist


The ASF in action What they do in Essex


doptive families in Essex are benefiting from an innovative new group created for children aged seven to 12 who are in need of therapeutic support. The group, which is paid for through the Adoption Support Fund, was launched in September 2015 with a weekend away for the children and their parents at an outdoor pursuits centre. One parent who attended said: “It is easy to think that once adopters have their child everything will be fine. This event validated our feelings and experiences that parenting a child who has experienced loss and separation is not easy. Thank you Southend for acknowledging this and supporting us.”

The support group encompasses a multidisciplinary package of support including creative therapies, therapeutic parenting and short breaks. Sessions are being delivered in-house by local authority staff trained in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Theraplay and Sensory Attachment Intervention, alongside input from external mental health therapists. The club is based on the six-session Just Right State Programme. This uses The Scared Gang books to help children understand the different survival and attachment patterns of behaviour. The aim is to enable children to become more emotionally aware of themselves and of others and to give them simple tools to help them to self-regulate and achieve the ‘just right’ state.

A programme for parents is being run alongside the children’s group, allowing parents to enhance their awareness of their own It was encouraging engagement patterns and how they impact on their child’s emotional to see adopters states. The programme will also have their own address the underlying reasons for experiences The team made an application to behaviour. It is hoped that parents understood and the Adoption Support Fund for the will gain a deeper understanding creation of a therapeutic support of and become more attuned validated. group for children aged seven to 12. to their child’s emotional needs and instinctive responses to distress, and will build All children who attend the group come from a their own confidence as parents as well as learning background of trauma and poor care and all have strategies to use in their everyday lives. experienced loss prior to their placement for adoption. The weekend away allowed families to share their experiences and make connections. It was a great Problems affecting their particular adoption opportunity for the children to develop relationships placements included; with others who shared some common ground. The zz Children struggling with their own capacity to youngsters took part in games that developed their regulate emotions confidence, self-esteem and capacity to engage with zz Not knowing other families who are going others. Activities were chosen to reflect the emotional through a similar journey states presented in the Scared Gang books, ensuring zz Parents not prioritising their own mental health children and parents had the opportunity to reflect and wellbeing and identify what kind of physical movement either zz Lack of opportunity to learn therapeutic regulates or activates them individually. They were parenting approaches therefore predominantly physical and sought to zz Families not interacting with each other to share engage participants’ sensory systems. They included and learn experiences team challenges, adventure courses, music and dance, getting in touch with nature and mindfulness. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s adoption team had become aware of what it believed was an increasing need for therapeutic attachment support.


The ASF in action Feedback received from the event was extremely positive. Parents said they benefitted from being in a supportive environment with both professionals and peers and felt they had learned strategies to use when things got difficult. They also said their children were beginning to understand how to regulate themselves. The weekend gave them a break too and they were reminded of the importance of looking after themselves. One parent said: “It’s been a great bonding weekend, seeing smiles on our kids’ faces has been a definite winner.” And another commented: “My son has been able to experience and learn new skills in a secure and safe environment.” One adopter believed their son was truly able to be himself and relax for the first time. They said: “It’s great to find out you’re not alone, that many of the issues you see mirrored in other children. We have made great friends and got additional strategies.” The children also benefitted hugely from the trip with one saying: “I loved being with new friends who have all been through what I have been through.” Another said: “I got the chance to do things with my Dad that I’ve always wanted to.” Social workers who attended saw a number of positive outcomes from the weekend. One said: “Observing one of our avoidant and withdrawn children make connections to the Scared Gang characters and voice she feels she was born scared was a real breakthrough.”

are fun, reduce their anxieties and build a trusting relationship with their parents. It is also envisaged that the children will gain personal insights into their own survival patterns and strategies for regulating their own emotional states. Both parents and children will also benefit from building peer relationships with others in the group. It is hoped this will evolve into further informal support networks developing and opportunities for the families to remain connected. Southend’s adoption team manager said: “Our ambition for the therapeutic support group is to provide preventative intervention which allows families to face and process their challenges in a trusting and therapeutic environment.

Another commented: “Creating opportunities for families to connect with other families they would not have otherwise met was fab as new friendships and support networks have been developed.”

“The children and parents who attended the session feel that they are not alone and feel comfortable to discuss their experiences more openly. As a direct result, our adoption service has experienced an increase in demand for post-adoption support. The therapeutic support needs that are being unveiled during the sessions may have otherwise gone undetected and escalated sometime in the future.

The sessions will continue up to June next year with six in total. It is hoped that the children will develop a greater opportunity to build healthy attachments to their parents, enjoy interactions that

Following the launch session we have already identified four to five individual Adoption Support Fund applications where more intensive therapeutic therapy is required to support the families.”


Adopters tell us what is working for them Mike and Susan Adoptive parents Mike and Susan have received vital help from the Adoption Support Fund for issues faced by their daughter Anna.

“Going to therapy gives me the chance to share my difficulties with someone and offers support to help me manage.”

They were seeking support for Anna’s violence and aggression towards them and her brother and the fact that she was urinating on the floor as a form of protest.

Mike and Susan had adopted Anna and her brother after fostering them.

The family were offered Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) for both mother and daughter and since starting the sessions Anna is able to talk about her feelings and is no longer urinating on the floor. The incidents of physical violence towards Susan have decreased.

Going to therapy gives me the chance to share my difficulties with someone and offers support to help me manage.

Susan said: “Coming to therapy has taken a weight off my shoulders and helps to make things easier at home. “The Adoption Support Fund has been good for both Anna and us. Anna has never been able to talk about her feelings at home before. I don’t think she even knew what her feelings were.


The children had suffered neglect and some suspected physical abuse in their birth home. They were removed from their birth parents and lived with their grandparents for a time but this placement broke down and they were then placed with Mike and Susan.

Anna and Susan had already had a 12-week block of DDP through their local authority, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The introduction of the Adoption Support Fund enabled the authority to offer another block of 14 weeks of DDP. This included weekly/fortnightly therapy sessions of one hour, with phone calls in between and attendance at meetings with school or other relevant agencies. Susan also attended a course on child to parent violence as part of the support package.

Adopters tell us what is working for them Ralph and Janine "We first became aware of the Adoption Support Fund through social media. We were also fortunate to be in one of the first pilot areas so we had a bit of a head start in accessing help.

figures in our daughter’s early life had had a significant effect on her social and emotional development. Her emotional age in the initial tests ranged from four to 14. It was no wonder school was a challenge!

We have been adopters for almost 19 years. We adopted three times in a four-year period! Our children are now 19, 16 and 14. When we adopted back in 1997 post adoption support was pretty much unheard of along with adoption leave. We took ‘holiday time’ following the adoptions. Not the greatest plan given what we know now about early childhood development.

It was recommended that we have 38 sessions of a combination of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Theraplay, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Our adoptions were generally very positive experiences and we were fortunate to have a good local authority. Of course we have had many challenges along the way not least because two of our children have medical conditions. The words "attachment" and "trauma" weren't used that often back then. In many ways we trundled on during the following years. I guess our "normal" became normal to us. We didn't really know other adopters because we moved to a different area fairly soon after adopting our first child and there was no social media! As often happens the teenage years brought added challenges. Our middle child was this year diagnosed with FASD at the age of 16. Our youngest’s struggles intensified at the age of 13. She is now 14. School especially was becoming increasingly hard for her. We decided in the autumn of 2014 to see if any help could be accessed through the Adoption Support Fund. Initially the process was fairly slow, mainly because it was a new thing. We chose to have an assessment done by Chrysalis in Sheffield. From our earliest contact to now they have been understanding, supportive and totally professional. We have already developed a good relationship with our therapist and our daughter relates really well to her. The assessment was thorough and highlighted the fact that the effects of trauma and lack of parental

This started in June 2015. It's a big commitment because we have a round trip of three to four hours to get there and back each week. The Adoption Support Fund has paid for travel costs too. The sessions generally involve an hour with us and our therapist talking about how things are and the current work we are doing with our daughter guided by the therapist. Given the challenges of teenagers this is adapted as needed as we go along. It's not a magic wand but already we can see some chinks of light after only 10 sessions. Our daughter is making small steps of progress. We feel supported and also get advice as to how best to function when living with a traumatised teen. We are also learning to practise self care. Something we haven't been very good at at all! After some early hiccups in high school our daughter now has a teaching assistant, a plan in place and appropriate support. Chrysalis are going into school to train staff in a few weeks’ time. They regularly liaise with school and help them in the best ways for them to support our daughter. This block of therapy ends next May so it's quite a long process but we would do anything to ensure our daughter has the best help for her future life. We don't like to think what life would be like without it right now! We realise we have latterly had a good experience of post adoption support (albeit late in the day!) but we also feel sad for those for whom this has come too late. Given the nature of adoptive parenting we would like to see the Adoption Support Fund accessible for older teenagers post 18 too."


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